I remember the first time that I wanted to be a writer. I was in the third grade. The assignment was to write a story about a tin can. I titled it, “The Diary of a Tin Can.” I even made drawings to correspond with the tin can’s adventures. I bundled it all in a neat little mini book and presented it to my mom to read before I turned it in to my teacher.
She was so excited about my little story. She kept telling me how much she loved it. How creative I was. What an imagination you have! Her eyes were so bright and her words so encouraging. I basked in the glow. I was onto something.
I remember the first time that I wanted to stop writing. I was 15. My mom had read my diary. Oh the horror! She stood with this look of absolute disgust and outrage on her face. Disappointment. Hurt. She held my diary in her hand. My mind reeling. Dear God, what had I written? It was so personal. I felt so exposed, so betrayed. I was angry at her. Whatever I wrote, she deserved it. She shouldn’t have read it. It’s her own fault if she was mad, not mine. Why did she do that to me? She didn’t have my permission.
I was never the same. I never felt safe to express myself in the same way again. I was forever muted, edited, guarded, dampened.
My mother passed away in July. I have been slowly, methodically cleaning out her room, packing up her things. She didn’t have much. The sum total of her 67 years on this earth fit neatly and cleanly in the bonus room above our garage. Her room. Everything in its place. Nothing in excess. Except cookbooks and coloring books and puzzles and markers and handwritten recipes. All of this from a woman who hardly cooked. Boxes and boxes of cookbooks. At least a hundred handwritten recipes. That she never made.
And in her room, I found that story I wrote in the third grade about a tin can.